Statement from the women of Yarl's Wood
The text that follows is a statement issued on Monday 15 October by the women of Yarl's Wood, a group of detainees held at the Yarl's Wood immigration detention centre in Bedfordshire.
"We have witnessed on several occasions the degrading and inhumane manner that women are being deported back to their countries in Yarl's Wood but particularly today; we witnessed a fellow sister, Christine Nakato from Uganda being forcefully taken naked by about 7 men out of the Centre to be deported. Christine was naked, and had a blanket over her body, whilst the officers were dragging her to the airport to be deported with her head bent down permanently by the officers for her face not to be identified by other residents.
Christine's hysterical shouting and screaming drew our attentions to her and we cannot understand why a human being should be treated in that form. We were informed during our meeting that Christine had been injected by the officers to subdue her and make her unconscious in order for the UKBA to forcefully enforce her removal from the UK.
In the meeting held and attended by nearly 100 women in Yarl's Wood IRC today, 15/10/2012, we all voted and made the following demands:"
These are our demands....
We are women held against our will in Yarl's Wood detention centre, with no charge and no sentence. We have formed a Movement for Justice group to stand up together and fight for our freedom and the freedom of all women not to be detained. Between us we have faced persecution in many forms - as lesbian, bisexual, and as straight women. Most of us are on 'Fast Track', a procedure designed to deport as many people as possible before they know what is really happening. We come from, every region of Africa, the Middle East, Pakistan and the Caribbean, and we welcome many more to join us. We are leaders because we speak the truth about oppression wherever it is, we are committed to fighting for our collective rights and dignity, and to end the racist, sexist and abusive detention system. There is no 'crime' in seeking freedom, safety and the chance to live free. These are our demands.
1. WE DEMAND OUR FREEDOM - RELEASE US NOW! END DETENTION!
Many of us have been the victim of rape, abuse and torture. Some of us are pregnant and are due to give birth in detention; some are disabled or critically ill, and some are elderly. Being locked up away from friends, families and the support we have in our communities is a new violation of our humanity.
2. STOP DEPORTATION!
No mass deportation on charter flights! No removal on scheduled flights! We call on pilots' associations, staff unions and passengers not to assist in or condone the forcible removal of women, or any person, to a future of abuse, persecution and even death, or being torn from their families. People have died in the process of being deported; no-one should stand by while this happens. Protest, complain and boycott airlines that continue to involve themselves in forced deportations. They have a choice to say 'No'.
3. WE DEMAND JUSTICE - END FAST TRACK!
'Fast Track' denies us justice. We cannot receive justice when we are isolated in detention and rushed through stressful interviews and hearings in a few days, without preparation. This compounds the traumatic effects of rape, torture, trafficking, forced marriage, beating, anti-gay persecution, female genital mutilation (FGM) and the many types of abuse that we have faced.
4. WE DEMAND THE RIGHT TO PREPARE OUR CASES - FAIR HEARINGS NOW!
End Internet censorship! We demand uncensored access to the Internet. The UKBA blocks the Internet and denies us access to news sites, information about our countries of origin, and organisations that can help us. We must have the means to prepare our cases and print material related to our asylum and human rights claims, without censorship.
We demand the right to choose or change our legal representatives without restriction. Legal Aid must be expanded, stop the cuts to legal aid! We cannot afford to pay private lawyers; justice cannot be reserved the rich. We demand that people with outstanding appeals must not be removed from the UK pending the outcome of their appeal or have become appeal right exhausted.
5. EXTEND THE PROTECTION OF WOMEN SEEKING ASYLUM
Recognise the right to asylum of women who have been victims of trafficking or violence & abuse in the family, who are escaping forced marriage or FGM, or protecting their daughters from FGM, and women who are persecuted for opposing such practices. These rights and the right to asylum of persecuted lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender & intersex (LGBTI) people must be upheld, not undermined by the UKBA and Fast Track in the way that LGBTI asylum rights have been. Britain publicly opposes such persecution and oppression; the government should not be sending us back to the hands of our oppressors.
6. RESPECT OUR FREEDOM OF SPEECH, EXPRESSION & ORGANISATION
Stop monitoring our Internet use and the work we do on computer or what we decide to print. Stop intimidating us when we stand up for our rights and dignity. NO RETALIATIONagainst anyone who protests, and organises to express our views and demands, or speaks out about the treatment of detainees - as our MFJ group is doing.
7. WE DEMAND PRIVACY AND RESPECT
Male officers must stop barging into female detainees' rooms. No more supervision by the UKBA (or its contractors) when we see medical doctors in detention or go to outside health care. Officers breach of our right to privacy and confidentiality by discussing our health issues with other officers and fellow detainees. We are human beings - stop treating us as mere statistics! We need proper and qualified medical doctors and nurses to treat us and not officers posing to us as doctors and nurses
8. STOP EXPLOITING WOMEN IN DETENTION - MODERN-DAY SLAVERY
Detainees who do cleaning and other work are paid an insulting 50p an hour. We work to buy credit for our phones or extra food at the detention centre shop. This is the exploitation we suffer in detention - but if we are outside it is illegal for us to do paid work if we have outstanding asylum applications, even when we get no financial support. We must be paid at least the national minimum wage for our work. Everyone with an outstanding application must have the unrestricted right to work.
End the £10.00 charge for access to our medical records! Reduce the prices in the detention centre shop to those of the outside market! Stop making detainees pay for goods that are donated for free by charities!
9. End the poisonous & racist police-state existence under which thousands of us now live in Britain. Stop tearing society apart with divide-and-rule policies. Get the UKBA off our streets and out of our communities, colleges and workplaces.
AMNESTY NOW FOR ALL ASYLUM SEEKERS & IMMIGRANTS!
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